December 20, 2019

I have fallen into Friday and
never slept, like deep scars
hanging white the exhaust of
memory. Where long before
dawn, I missed the sheets
on an unmade bed, porcine
of undressed skin stitching
through threads. Fingers felt
to the length of hips where
denim thumbed the black, I
startle the moonrise giving
pale corseted with my window.
But it was easy to memorize
the nothing without feeling for
its wrinkle or smooth, where
I bore the hollow, got skinny in
my limbs stilling a girl from
spinning herself out of shadow.

Lana Bella


December 3, 2019

When you were mine though not
mine at all permanently, just a body borrowed
without permission, a body interrupted,
interruptive —
       the sky opened like a secret in a mouth
mouth with a word in it
word with an arrowhead in its flank: Love, small
creature it was
             crying in the night beneath me

Phillip B Williams


October 23, 2019

This is a graveyard for broken things.

Scratched-up cassette tapes and punctured tyres and dulled rainbow shards of stained glass from moss-covered God-forsaken cathedrals;
Unspooled rusted wire and torn cotton quilts from empty cribs and seared flea-ridden fabric-shrouded seats out of burnt-up worn-down trucks;
Ivy-blanketed Ferris wheels and dust-claimed sepia photographs or long-dead men, and cracked-skull faded-paisley-wearing one-legged china dolls left behind from picnics in the grass of the banks downstream.

Eerie nostalgia and weather-beaten fragments of days gone by are not shadowed by polished new primary-coloured cars or drowned out by laughing children’s shiny echoing bicycle bells in this place.

It is quiet here.

Rae O’Dowd

Because no one is down sick or dead
tired, the black patron saint of sadness
tells me I’m not allowed to weep.
So here I am, all manners and no accent,
sitting here in the land of field peas and saltwater
fish, not weeping but watching
my cousin in ACT I of motherhood
as she pulls the pink taffy from her fingers
and stuffs it in her twins’ mouths. They stretch
their necks like stunted giraffes. We can’t afford
sadness on this wide street of abandoned
school buses where we both stole
our first sip of Crown, where a neighbor boy crashed
my cousin’s dirt bike into the tree and she cursed him
out like a drunk uncle
until her mother dragged her
into the house. We can’t afford it
as we sit in the foliage of willows. We must
enjoy a gentle sweat. The leaves
are so green and cover us both
like Baptist hands, no one hears us
sing of our no show siblings with a Motown
grief. No one can look at us and know
we are as lonely as every room
without a piano. We know too
much and not enough about
our faces and who gave them to us.
My father now lives
in the letters on my cousin’s calf
and I visit him when I can.
Her father joined him this year,
and I have not offered my skin
as a canvas for a needle’s pinch. I know
they both went into a light, my father breathing,
until not. Her father breathing then thrashing
into it like their pet pit hit
by the mail truck. Her puppies left
to house in their peeling garage.
I’ve been running from what needs me.
I refuse to make either of us cry in this poem so
I’ll just tell you that the willow weeps.

Karisma Price

loved each other

October 9, 2019

Once, a very long time ago, he met a girl. She was his first girl. He was her first boy. Their love had been so clumsy and coy. They loved each other. Clumsily and coyly. When she left, she left behind the aroma of burnt grass and the decline of summer, a pain and the almost unbelievable feeling of being a man.

Maria Stankowa
The Black Woman and the Archer

What you have

August 29, 2019

You should love what you have, boys & girls, before life teaches you to love that which you have lost.


July 5, 2019

There’s a room inside myself
I’ve never seen.

a bed there, and
on a nightstand, photographs
in frames. But

whose faces?

A violet
vase on a vanity: I’ve

held it in my hands. Tearful
apology. And
under my bed
in narrow boxes?
And if I open the desk
drawer, or
the dresser?

Well, just
the usual soft
folded things.
A glove.
A stocking.

A loss, eternally.
And a window
(I’m sure of this)
that looks
out onto the green.
An apple tree.

And, beneath the tree, my
in a housedress
in a lounge chair, sipping
a cool drink, not

even wondering
where she went or
all these years,
she’s been.

Laura Kasischke

in east texas, i learned that my body
is less girl and more elephant graveyard.
here, i am the back pages of a history book;
i am a cathedral of almost-lovers.
i am where you go to abandon your dying.
it will be like kissing, just not as violent.
come here to bury your dead.
all that aching must be heavy—i’ll carry it.
i have always been beast of burden:
pack animal.
buy a family plot behind my ribcage.
lay three generations of not good enough
down to rest.
you can love me like a slot machine, here.
shove yourself inside for the chance
of getting poetry out of it.
i can be lucky sevens, i can be anything.
i can be the first bar you got drunk in.
i can be a stomping ground for old lovers
who only loved the parts of me they could put their fingers in.
i’ll be the sycamore behind the high school soccer field
and they’ll carve their names in me with the stems
of broken wine glasses and call it love.
i can unlearn photosynthesis while they
drink fireball whiskey and tell stories of how
i wanted to be touched.
yeah. i wanted to be touched.
guess my soda fountain heart was bad at being a wishing well;
all those copper pennies only ever tasted like blood.
and hope tastes like arcade fodder. it tastes
like the bottom of a mason jar.
does it even count making wishes in cities
too bright to have stars?
bodies are supposed to be temples, right?
well i sure did ransack mine good.
in my defence, marble is marble and stone is stone.
in my defence, nobody ever taught me that i could be holy.
in my defence,
wine coolers in texas summer can taste like praying
if you hold your mouth right.
so i’m the graveyard and not the dead.
forget this bone business and
for god’s sake, just let me live.
my body is a temple,
and my gods
drink vodka and gin.

Ashe Vernon

desire keeps you alive

March 7, 2019

Let suffering be removed, but not desire, because desire keeps you alive. That’s why they are afraid. They are consumed by the fear of desire. They want to suffer so they won’t think about desire. You’re maimed when you’re little, and fear is hammered into the back of your head. Because desire keeps you alive, they kill it off while you’re growing up, the desire for all things, in that way when you’re grown…

Mercè Rodoreda
Death in Spring
Trans. by Martha Tennent

Rodoreda’s posthumous novel, Death in Spring, utilizes a Catalan village setting to explore the nature of human relations and a search for identity. Published in 1989, Death in Spring further explores the dual senses of alienation and self-discovery through the eyes of a young village girl. In Death in Spring water, particularly a local stream, serves as a metaphor for change:

“I lowered myself gently into the water, hardly daring to breathe, always with the fear that, as I entered the water world, the air – finally rid of my nuisance – would begin to rage and be transformed into furious wind, like the winter wind that nearly carried away houses, trees, and people.”

Throughout the novel, water is never a metaphor for peace. Instead, it is a destructive force, one that batters bridges, bludgeons unfortunate souls who venture into its treacherous depths, all while reinforcing the cruel capriciousness of people, even as they grow estranged from each other. Rodoreda’s characters are often cruel and distant from one another, as in the case of their treatment of prisoners as caged animals to be tortured before they are killed. One character, referred to by the narrator simply as “Senyor,” is sentenced to die by having cement poured down his gullet until he suffocates. This concrete metaphor for the silencing of dissenters echoes “The Salamander”’s treatment of foreigners/outsiders as nefarious agents who must die by fire. Zealotry and irrational fear, Rodoreda reminds us, often leads to human loss and suffering, while also dehumanizing those who perpetuate such inhumane treatment upon other human beings.

In Rodoreda’s fictions, the weird is not just something inexplicable that occurs within a narrative, but also a commentary on human relations. We see in Death in Spring a girl who munches on bees, followed shortly by a young boy who, after venturing into the treacherous waters underneath the village bridge, is mutilated by the waters as the villagers watch on, some with apparent glee.

Zoran Rosko
Mercè Rodoreda

Let crazy terror take my head, nobody could fend off an attack more powerful than the idea of power.

It’s not what one thinks it is. It’s not what one doesn’t think it isn’t. It’s not what one thinks it isn’t. What is most unlikely is what’s most probable. The unthinkable trembles my heart, I call it “fear! fear!”

The illness comes into being again, I change it, and all this without the slightest calculation. One day one the next the other. I’m convinced I make myself sick one illness after another without being able to do a thing about it. Thinking I know this is an illusion of the ill. It’s no help at all my knowing it. All the same, no complacency. Each illness makes me doubly ill 1) with the illness 2) with being sick of being ill. Every time I make myself sick, I always make myself sick again but I see perfectly that I do this on the same model, it’s always the end of being, generally it’s at the bottom of the garden this happens, the way the death of my father took place, starting in the garden’s northeast corner which suddenly fills up with this terrifying substance, invisible but substantial, tactile, perceptible perceived as brushing as growling, this colossal quantity of void that one hears sighing if one could hear it (but one doesn’t want to, one is petrified), not breathing but sighing, as if the garden our daily body were suddenly occupied by a body too big diffuse internal and thus hollowing out of our usual compact and limited body bottomless pits of visceral caverns and this content, this monster is a nightmare in broad daylight without a hope of waking, the vanguard of Regret that already fills up all the available space, that spreads out into our eyes our throat our lungs great doses of bitterness and sobs to come. I am perfectly aware that the misfortune is my fault, I call upon no one, but taking advantage of my deficit of vigilance during sleep the illness spreads into every inch of me like a building going up without any estimation of its internal or external resistance and I am its even before I open my eyes. The minute I’m up, I lack everything, daylight, courage, sturdy legs, everything necessary to life: movement, confidence, habit, the solidity of things, the loyalty of vital beings! So far as I can see everything betrays me. No one I can count on. Death is the first to come along. I see it everywhere, far more overwhelming than my mental debility and it picks and chooses, according to probability or improbability.

Nobody can fend off a hurricane, it grinds up and kills at random, that I am at the origin of it doesn’t in the least lessen its impact.

Hélène Cixous
Translation Beverley Bie Brahic